Judges 8:6
And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand?—Literally, Is the fist (caph) of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thy hand (yad)? The general meaning, of course, is clear: “Are you so completely victor as to secure us from the vengeance of these kings?” (Comp. 1Kings 20:11.) But what the exact shade of meaning is in this proverbial expression we do not know. Perhaps it is an allusion to the chained hands of captives. Nor do we know whether the tone of the elders of Succoth was one of derision or only of cowardice. In any case, they were guilty of inhumanity, want of faith, want of courage, and want of patriotism.

That we should give bread unto thine army.—They use the exaggerated term “army,” as though to magnify the sacrifice required of them. Gideon had only said “my followers.”

Jdg 8:6. Are the hands of Zeba and Zalmunna now in thy hand? — Art thou so foolish as to think with thy three hundred faint and weary soldiers to conquer and destroy fifteen thousand men? Thus they make light of the advantage he had gained, and tauntingly tell him, that he had not yet got these kings into his hands, that they should run the danger of giving him and his men food, and so afterward have those kings to fall upon them. Thus they show the most dastardly and ungenerous spirit, and shut up the bowels of their compassion against their brethren, who, with extreme toil, and at the hazard of their lives, were endeavouring to deliver them and the rest of their country from a cruel slavery. Were these Israelites! Surely they were worshippers of Baal, or in the interest of Midian.8:4-12 Gideon's men were faint, yet pursuing; fatigued with what they had done, yet eager to do more against their enemies. It is many a time the true Christian's case, fainting, and yet pursuing. The world knows but little of the persevering and successful struggle the real believer maintains with his sinful heart. But he betakes himself to that Divine strength, in the faith of which he began his conflict, and by the supply of which alone he can finish it in triumph.The number of the followers of Zebah and Zalmunna was still so formidable, and Gideon's enterprise still so doubtful, that the men of Succoth (being on the same side of the Jordan) would not risk the vengeance of the Midianites by giving supplies to Gideon's men. 6. the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand—an insolent as well as a time-serving reply. It was insolent because it implied a bitter taunt that Gideon was counting with confidence on a victory which they believed he would not gain; and it was time-serving, because living in the near neighborhood of the Midianite sheiks, they dreaded the future vengeance of those roving chiefs. This contumelious manner of acting was heartless and disgraceful in people who were of Israelitish blood. Art thou so foolish to think, with thy three hundred faint and weary soldiers, to conquer and destroy a host of fifteen thousand men? And the princes of Succoth said,.... The chief magistrates of the place made answer, one in the name of the rest; for the word said is in the singular number:

are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hands; that is, are they taken prisoners, and handcuffed, or their hands bound behind them, and put into the hands of Gideon, to do with them as he pleased? no, they were not; and they suggest they never would, deriding him and his small number of men as not a match for these kings, whom, perhaps a little before, they had seen pass by with 15,000 men; with whom his little army would not be able to encounter, should they turn and fall upon them, which they supposed would be the case; and therefore, say they, when these are in thine hands, which they thought would never be, it will be time enough

that we should give bread to thine army? for they feared, should they do that, these kings would hear of it, and they should suffer for it, and their bondage be harder than it was before; so selfish and diffident in themselves, so cruel and uncompassionate to their brethren, and so ungrateful to their deliverers, which stirred up the spirit of this humble and good man to great resentment.

And the princes of Succoth said, Are the {e} hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?

(e) Because you have overcome a handful, do you think to have overcome the whole?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. the princes of Succoth] i.e. the executive officials of the community, responsible for its government, e.g. Jdg 9:30 (‘ruler,’ lit. ‘prince’), or for the conduct of its wars, e.g. Jdg 7:25, Jdg 8:3. See further on Jdg 8:14.Verse 6. - And the princes of Succoth, etc. Nothing could be more selfish, cowardly, and unpatriotic, than the conduct of the chief men of Succoth. Instead of aiding Gideon in his gallant enterprise for the deliverance of his country, they refused even food to his weary followers, for fear of the possibility of incurring the anger of the Midianites in ease Gideon should fail. Their conduct and that of the men of Penuel is perhaps one among many indications how little real union there was between the tribes on the opposite sides of the Jordan (see Judges 5:16, 17). In order to cut off the retreat of the enemy who was flying to the Jordan, Gideon sent messengers into the whole of the mountains of Ephraim with this appeal to the Ephraimites, "Come down (from your mountains into the lowlands of the Jordan) to meet Midian, and take the waters from them to Bethbarah and the Jordan," sc., by taking possession of this district (see Judges 3:28). "The waters," mentioned before the Jordan and distinguished from it, must have been streams across which the flying foe would have to cross to reach the Jordan, namely, the different brooks and rivers, such as Wady Maleh, Fyadh, Jamel, Tubs, etc., which flowed down from the eastern side of the mountains of Ephraim into the Jordan, and ran through the Ghor to Bethbarah. The situation of Bethbarah is unknown. Even Eusebius could say nothing definite concerning the place; and the conjecture that it is the same as Bethabara, which has been regarded ever since the time of Origen as the place mentioned in John 1:28 where John baptized, throws no light upon the subject, as the situation of Bethabara is also unknown, to say nothing of the fact that the identity of the two names is very questionable. The Ephraimites responded to this appeal and took possession of the waters mentioned, before the Midianites, who could only move slowly with their flocks and herds, were able to reach the Jordan. They then captured two of the princes of the Midianites and put them to death: one of them, Oreb, i.e., the raven, at the rock Oreb; the other, Zeeb, i.e., the wolf, at the wine-press of Zeeb. Nothing further is known about these two places. The rock of Oreb is only mentioned again in Isaiah 10:26, when the prophet alludes to this celebrated victory. So much, however, is evident from the verse before us, viz., that the Midianites were beaten by the Ephraimites at both places, and that the two princes fell there, and the places received their names from that circumstance. They were not situated in the land to the east of the Jordan, as Gesenius (on Isaiah 10:26), Rosenmller, and others infer from the fact that the Ephraimites brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon ליּרדּן מעבר (Judges 7:25), but on the western side of the Jordan, where the Ephraimites had taken possession of the waters and the Jordan in front of the Midianites. ליּרדּן מעבר does not mean "from the other side of the Jordan," but simply "on the other side of (beyond) the Jordan," as in Joshua 13:32; Joshua 18:7; 1 Kings 14:15; and the statement here is not that the Ephraimites brought the heads from the other side to Gideon on the west of the river, but that they brought them to Gideon when he was in the land to the east of the Jordan. This explanation of the words is required by the context, as well as by the foregoing remark, "they pursued Midian," according to which the Ephraimites continued the pursuit of the Midianites after slaying these princes, and also by the complaint brought against Gideon by the Ephraimites, which is not mentioned till afterwards (Judges 8:1.), that he had not summoned them to the war. It is true, this is given before the account of Gideon's crossing over the Jordan (Judges 8:4), but in order of time it did not take place till afterwards, and, as Bertheau has correctly shown, the historical sequence is somewhat anticipated.
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